Wrestling carries many benefits for adolescent boys — it burns off fat, builds muscle, teaches self-defense life skills, and fosters a healthy spirit of competition. But as with any sport, there are certain risks associated with being in such close proximity to others. At the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists brought awareness to a growing concern among high school athletes: widespread skin infections.
Skin Infections Pose A Real Threat To Wrestlers
Dermatologists say wrestlers need to be vigilant for signs of the following types of skin infections:
– Impetigo: a bacterial infection characterized by honey-colored, crusty, itchy skin patches that blister
– MRSA: a deadly type of staph infection that may appear as a red, swollen, and warm pimple, boil, or abscess
– Herpes Simplex: a viral infection causing blisters and sores around the mouth, nose, genitals, and buttocks
– Ringworm: a fungal infection characterized by itchy, red, circular rashes with clear middles
– Athlete’s Foot: the same fungus as ringworm, but appears on the foot as dry, cracked, peeling, red scales
“These skin conditions are highly contagious and can spread through sports teams quite quickly, especially if they are not immediately diagnosed and contained,” reported Dr. Brian B. Adams, MD, MPH, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.
Sixteen-year-old Nick Mauriello of Long Island, New York was a star wrestler, ranked fifth in his weight class for all of Suffolk County. Then, after competing in 18 matches over eight days, a scrape on his wrist led to horrific complications. He began complaining of neck pains, which he thought was a pulled muscle. Quickly, his heart rate went through the roof and it was difficult to breathe or move normally.
Stony Brook University Medical Center diagnosed the boy with a drug-resistant MRSA infection, as well as a similar bacterial infection called Lemierre’s Syndrome. Despite the boy’s impeccable health overall, the newly-acquired skin infections were aggressively attacking his kidneys, liver, and lungs, experts said.
Nick remained in the hospital for 19 days — hooked up to machines that helped him breathe — and lost almost a third of his body weight. “Hell. Nothing less than hell. To sit there and watch your healthy 16-year-old son lying in bed with…tubes in him. It was awful,” his father, Nick Mauriello Sr., told ABC Channel 7 News.
After fighting for his life, Nick Mauriello became one of the success stories. Almost a year after his battle with deadly skin infections, Nick won his first ten matches of the season and ranked first in his weight class for Suffolk County.
Skin Infection Prevention Tips For Wrestlers
“Any athlete with skin-to-skin contact could develop ringworm, but the intensity of close contact and exposed skin makes wrestling the highest risk sport for this particular fungal infection,” Dr. Adams explains. “Early detection and treatment are essential in containing the spread of infection.”
Treatment involves over-the-counter topical or oral prescription antifungal medications. However, he adds that there needs to be evidence-based recommendations on when athletes can return to competition after being treated for a contagious skin infection, so that is something the larger community needs to address.
In terms of prevention, dermatologists say young athletes can:
– Inspect the body for any skin blemish following a match and report any symptoms to a coach
– Shower immediately after a match
– Wear moisture-wicking socks (not cotton)
– Put on sandals when using public showers or locker rooms
– Dry thoroughly after showering
– Apply antifungal agents to the feet after athletic activity
– Give the shoes a day to dry between wearings
– Avoid sharing towels or clothes with other wrestlers
– When dressing, put on socks before underwear
– Kill microbes residing in footwear with the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer